As consumers become increasingly aware of how our actions – particularly consumerism – affect the environment, there’s been a demand for more sustainable products and practices. The manufacturing industry has been hearing this call and has been gradually adapting, with more sustainable practices being proposed and implemented. 

According to a 2023 US Environmental Protection Agency report, “In 2021, direct industrial greenhouse gas emissions accounted for 23% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the third largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, after the Transportation and Electric Power sectors.”

Environmental Impact of Manufacturing

Manufacturing plants use a lot of electricity. Machinery has to be run, the building needs to be heated and/or cooled, and there needs to be sufficient lighting. Then there are the emissions put off by various vehicles used in production, from moving equipment on the factory floor to delivery trucks transporting the manufactured goods to clients.

With all the work that needs to be done, it’s no surprise that the US Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2023 “Including both direct emissions and indirect emissions associated with electricity use, industry’s share of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 was 30%, making it the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions of any sector.”

However, in this same report, it’s stated that, “Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from industry, including electricity, have declined by 14% since 1990.” This is a positive change and shows that manufacturing has been reducing its emissions through more sustainable practices. It’s important that manufacturers today continue this trend by implementing more sustainable practices.

How Manufacturing Is Becoming More Sustainable

One of the key things manufacturers are doing to become more sustainable is being more energy efficient. Using LED lights and turning off machinery when not in use is a simple way to cut down on energy consumption. Machinery has also been getting more energy efficient by design, so simply by updating equipment, manufacturers can reduce their power consumption. 

The industry can take this even further by tapping into the growing green energy industry. Solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower have dramatically increased in availability and become more competitive in terms of cost. As these power sources give off minimal carbon emissions, if any, implementing them can greatly reduce a manufacturer’s own carbon footprint. 

factory photo

Sustainability Reducing Costs

Energy efficiency also has the added bonus of being cost-effective. With the rising costs of electricity, manufacturers can use energy-efficient practices on the floor to reduce their utility bills and expenses, while still helping the environment. According to Forbes, “By building sustainable practices into processes, manufacturers can tackle their single largest sustainability obstacle while at the same time working to minimize environmental impact and conserve resources.”

Sustainable practices are gaining traction in the manufacturing industry, and the best manufacturers will adapt to the changes to both reduce their environmental impact as well as  their costs.